Interesting and useful facts about Bangkok
The first cartographer to map the little fishing village on the eastern shore of the Chao Phraya river in 1511 could not have dreamed that it would one day be a major city with a population of some 8.2 million people, attracting over 17 million tourists a year. During the era of the kingdom of Ayutthaya, which ended in 1767 with the destruction of the capital city of the same name by the Burmese, Bangkok grew into a trading port and stop-off point on the waterway to the capital. Five years later, General Taksin - who had survived the destruction of Ayutthaya - made the small settlement of Thonburi on the western shore of the Chao Phraya, which is today part of Bangkok, the new capital. Ten years after that, Rama I, the founder of the Chakri dynasty which still rules today, relocated the seat of government to the eastern shore, including the territory of Rattanakosin with the Chinese-populated village of Bang Kok.
In the early 20th century, the city grew beyond its existing limits, and during the Second World War was occupied by the Japanese. It was bombed by the Allies in 1944 as a result, though it quickly recovered subsequently, and continued to grow steadily. In the 1960s and 70s it underwent a veritable construction boom. At the same time, the royal city saw political turmoil, including the 1973 uprising, the massacre on the campus of Thammasat University, and the "Black May" of 1992.
Bangkok is the cultural and religious heart of the kingdom of Thailand. There are over 400 Buddhist temples in the city. The Wat Phra Kaeo with the "Emerald Buddha", the Grand Palace, the Wat Pho and the Wat Mahathat form the historic center of Bangkok. The city is also home to the Thai National Museum, the National Gallery, the National Library, and the National Theater. Another notable site is the 576,000 square meter Lumphini Park, built in the 1920s by King Vajiravudh on royal ground, where Tai Chi practicants are to be found exercising every morning. The park also features an artificial lake, with rowing boats and pedal boats for hire.
A further interesting fact is that the ceremonial name of Bangkok in Thai, when transcribed into Latin characters, is the longest place name of any capital city in the world, comprising 169 letters.
Another statistical superlative is Yaowarat, the world's largest "Chinatown", with a population of over a million people. The bustling neighborhood is particularly attractive to shoppers and lovers of exotic foods.
Bangkok's average temperature of 28.4°C makes it the hottest major city in the world - so the somewhat "cooler" months between December and March are the best times to visit. That is also the dry season, whereas in the summer months the monsoon and humid heat mean clothing is constantly damp.
And another hint on the subject of clothing: In Bangkok it is prohibited by law to leave the house without wearing underwear! Likewise, you should never use a durian fruit as a weapon - and if you do, be warned that the penalty is based on the number of spikes that injure the victim.
Admittedly, you can safely ignore those last two pieces of advice as antiquated curiosities. But it's no joke that you would do well not to accidentally tread on a banknote or coin: The Thai currency, the Baht, bears an image of the King, and there are heavy penalties in Thailand for insulting the monarch! So now, if you want, you can - in complete safety - check out our restaurant and hotel tips:
A little north of the old city is one of the best Street Food locations that Bangkok has to offer. At more than fair prices, you will find dishes in Jok Pochana featuring a variety of different seafood, delicious Pad-Thai, and a Massamam curry made by the chef according to her mother's recipe. Definitely to be recommended!
Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin
You like fine cuisine, and have brought along plenty of spending money? Get yourself a table in the Sra Bua. It serves Thai food in an exclusive style, inspired by "molecular gastronomy". The concept was devised by Danish superchef Henryk Yde Anderson, whose affiliated restaurant Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen was the first Thai restaurant anywhere to be awarded a Michelin star. A popular choice is the 10-course menu titled "The Journey", which does indeed take you on a very special culinary journey.
May Varee Fruit Shop
In recent times there has been some major hype about the mango with sticky rice and coconut sauce from the May Varee Fruit Shop - said to be the best in the whole city. To find out for yourself, just take the Bangkok Sky Train and get out at stop E6, Thong Lo, then take an immediate left into Sukhumvit 55.
Hotel Tower Club at lebua
One of the city's tallest buildings houses the five-star Hotel Tower Club at lebua. In addition to its luxury and all-round top-class service, the location's key feature is the rooftop "Dome". It is home to a number of outstanding restaurants and bars. But you'll need a head for heights: The cocktail prices are as breathtaking as the view - but it's certainly well worth it! For film fans there's an added bonus, because the Sky Bar and hotel were also settings for the hit comedy "Hangover 2"!
Loy La Long Hotel
The fact that you do not necessarily have to ascend to great heights in order to enjoy an unforgettable spectacle is impressively demonstrated by the Loy La Long. Located right on the Chao Phraya river, it offers views from its rooms across the water to the Bangkok skyline. The hotel's beautifully furnished suites combine state-of-the-art comfort with a stylish reverence for the Thailand of days gone-by. "Let it be, Let it go, Let it flow." Take inspiration from the motto of this architectural gem.